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Zero-Emission Plan for Scotland

The ScotRail Service

Scotland’s ambitious plans to transform its railways to a zero emissions network by 2035 is helping to push forward innovation in green technology that could ultimately change the world. When it comes to driving down emissions, Scotland’s rail system is already a success story, with around 76% of passenger and 45% of freight journeys already on electric traction. They are striving for better, however. Working closely with industry to push forward a target that is the most ambitious of any country in the world, Transport Scotland is working to clean up our railways – and in the process help cut emissions across the country.

A perfect example of how this could work is the award-winning Edinburgh to Glasgow service, which utilises some of the most advanced rail technology available. Hitachi Rail aims to support Transport Scotland transform its railways to a zero emissions network by 2035

The ScotRail express service, which operates on a Hitachi Rail 385 class fully electric train, has in a short space of time, completely transformed the route.


Launched in 2018, it replaced an old diesel engine train and cut emissions at a stroke. The zero-emission vehicle also had over 100 extra seats, cut journey times and provided a service that has been named the most reliable commuter train within Great Britain. Thanks to the changes, the route has been busier than ever, driven by customer satisfaction and reliability. Hitachi Rail aims to support Transport Scotland in replicating this success in other parts of the country and to push for achieving the 2035 target earlier.

Plans to decarbonise Scotland’s rail passenger services by 2035 were launched by Transport Secretary Michael Matheson in July 2020. They set out a phased shift to electric or hybrid trains, with large parts of Scotland rail network electrified and other lines using battery-powered vehicles.

For comparison, countries around the world are introducing net zero carbon emissions targets for transport – but while applauding Scotland’s ambition, those behind the scenes believe the goal could be achieved faster. Scotland will see a phased shift to electric or hybrid trains, with large parts of the rail network electrified and other lines using battery-powered vehicles.

Ahead of the game

Lorna McDonald, Head of Commuter Sales at Hitachi Rail, has been keeping a close eye on the award winning commuter Class 385 service in Scotland, she intends on building upon its reliability for future rail solutions and as such recognises it contributes towards Transport Scotland in reaching their emissions targets. "Transport Scotland is genuinely ahead of the game in terms of its thinking, its collaborative approach, and the benefits that brings,” she says. “Because of all that, I think 2035 is achievable – in fact I think it’s achievable earlier, and I would like to think that the battery train will accelerate towards 2035. It’s here and now, it needs little infrastructure support and has shown that when it’s launched on a route it increases use of the rail network.

“To reach Scotland’s overall climate target will take a fundamental shift in people’s behaviours and clean rail has a massive part to play in that. If you can have a zero-emissions rail network that is joined-up, reliable and gets people where they need to go, it will drive people onto the network and take them off the roads.

Full speed ahead

“Scotland is already being incredibly ambitious, but we can be more ambitious. We have the technology now. It not only delivers now but can accelerate targets, so what are we waiting for? That is a message they will be hoping to take to the world when Glasgow hosts the COP26 climate conference later this year.

That event, sponsored by Hitachi Ltd, will be an opportunity to show the world just how far and how fast Scotland is changing – and that can help shift attitudes around the world to what is possible.

“The conference will catapult Scotland and Transport Scotland, onto a global platform so they’ve got an opportunity to show the world their ambition, and the things they have already achieved,” says Lorna. “The Scottish Government’s progressive view of climate technology is already helping to drive innovation in the rail market. Once there’s a target industry is good at meeting it, so setting such an ambitious target encourages the creation of new technology. Once the technology is proven to work, Scotland will be well-positioned to be global leader, drawing experts from around the world to learn more about how they have decarbonised rail successfully.”

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